The four individuals were detained last Thursday in Madrid, Spain’s capital, during a joint operation carried out by the Civil Guard and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI). The four individuals are being requested for extradition by ICE-HSI for their involvement in a $1 billion bribery scheme involving Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA.
“Chavismo’s looting spree began in 2000 and hasn’t stopped since. By ‘looting,’ I mean fraudulent government contracts, a celebration of bribery, phantom payrolls across all government ministries, bogus government grant programs, the sacking of Venezuela’s gold reserves, and a massive currency exchange scam,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “At a time where there is zero chance of the Venezuelan justice system cracking down on corruption domestically, it is paramount that the global community of democracies does right by the millions of victims of the Chavez and Maduro governments. Most of the looters are living in luxury in European and American cities. It’s outrageous.”
In July, Halvorssen was asked to submit testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on the activities of Fusion GPS, a Washington-based PR firm that is the focus of an investigation by the U.S. congress for creating a dossier of unverified memos related to President Donald Trump’s activities in Russia. Fusion GPS has also been accused by former Oslo Freedom Forum speaker Bill Browder of working on behalf of Russian interests while failing to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). Halvorssen’s testimony focused on Fusion GPS’s unethical and potentially illegal role in coordinating a smear campaign against investigative journalists and whistleblowers who threatened to expose one of Fusion GPS’s Venezuelan clients, Derwick Associates. In his testimony, Halvorssen denounced that Derwick Associates carried out a multi-billion dollar fraud involving faulty electric power plants, the laundering of its proceeds in American banks, and a kickback scheme to pay off Venezuelan officials. The individuals arrested in Spain all played a role in the Derwick Associates case.
In December 2016, Halvorssen provided expert testimony about Derwick Associates at the Parliament of Canada in support of the “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act,” or “Sergei Magnitsky Law.” The Magnitsky Law, which was adopted on October 19, 2017, allows Canada to sanction foreign officials who commit gross human rights abuses abroad by restricting their entry into the country and freezing their assets. HRF has supported legislation targeting corrupt enablers of dictatorship in Canada, the U.S., and Estonia.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.